I started this blog because I was alerted to the fact that people are unaware that I'm actually a poet(and not just another blogger) - so my plan is to post a great poem every day(not mine, obviously) and to summarize the key elements that make the poem hit the target....i.e. the kernel of what resonates, rather than how it's achieved - the assumption being that it is achieved via craft, beauty, music, imagery, metaphor, whatever....Does that sound like a (kinda ambitious) plan? Alright. Holden Caulfield lives...This poem is a bit longer than usual, and you may find it a little disturbing(but I've put two haiku out there recently, so it kind of evens out?) So - "White Pig", by Stephen Dobyns.
A family decides to have a party.
It is a graduation or birthday.
The father buys a little white pig,
just enough for his wife and six kids
with something left over for someone special.
The father has no idea how to kill a pig
but he meets a man in a bar who says,
Don't worry, I have killed hundreds of pigs.
He is a young man with a big smile.
On the day of the party, the young man arrives
early in the morning. I have no knife,
he says. And he takes the bread knife
and begins sharpening it on a stone.
He sharpens the knife and drinks brandy.
The white pig trots through the house.
The children have tied a blue ribbon
around her neck and the baby's blue bonnet
on her head. The pig thinks she is very cute.
She lets the children feed her cookies and
ride on her back. The man with the smile keeps
sharpening and drinking, sharpening and drinking.
The morning is getting late. Why don't you
do something? says the father. The pig pokes
her head around the door, then scampers away.
The young man drinks more brandy. It is nearly noon.
Why don't you kill the pig? says the father.
He wants to get it over with. The young man
looks sullenly at the floor, looks sullenly
at the father and his neat little house.
He gets to his feet and sways back and forth.
You're drunk, says the father. The young man
raises the knife. Not too drunk to kill a pig,
he shouts. He stumbles out of the kitchen.
Where's that bitch of a pig? he shouts.
The pig is upstairs with the children.
I'm ready, says the young man, now I'm
really ready. He rushes up the stairs
and into the room where the pig is playing.
You whore! he shouts. He drives at the pig
and stabs her in the leg. The pig squeals.
Outside, shouts the father, you have to kill her
outside! The pig is terrified and rushes
around the room squealing and bleeding on the rug.
The blue bonnet slips down over one eye.
You slut! shouts the young man. He leaps
at the pig and stabs her in the shoulder.
The children are screaming. The parents are shouting.
The young man chases the pig through the whole house.
You whore, you slut, you little Jew of a pig!
Outside, outside! shouts the father. He knows
the rules, knows how a pig should be killed.
For the pig, it's a nightmare. The blue bonnet
has slipped down over both eyes and she can
hardly see. She squeals over and over. There is
no sound in the world like that one.
At last the young man traps the pig
in the laundry room. He leaps on her.
You black bitch of a pig! he shouts. He stabs
the pig over and over. The children
stand in the doorway crying. The father
is crying. His wife hides in the bedroom.
What a great party this has turned out to be.
Finally the pig is dead. The young man
holds her up by the hind legs. Again he is
smiling. This is one dead pig! he shouts.
He has probably stabbed her over two hundred times.
The pig looks like a piece of Swiss cheese.
The young man carries the pig to the kitchen
and begins to butcher her, then he helps
to cook the pig. All afternoon the house
is full of wonderful smells. The children
hide in their bedrooms. The mother and father
scrub and scrub to clean up the blood. At last
the pig is ready to be eaten. It is a party,
maybe a graduation or birthday.
The children refuse to come downstairs.
The mother and father don't feel hungry.
The young man sits at the table by himself.
He is served by a neighborhood girl hired
to wash the dishes. He eats and eats. Tasty,
he says, there's nothing so tasty as a young pig.
He drinks wine and laughs. He stuffs himself
on the sweet flesh of the little white pig.
Late at night he is still eating. The children
are in bed, the parents are in bed. The father
lies on his back and listens to the young man singing --
hunting songs, marching songs, songs of journeys
through dark places, songs of conquest and revenge.
Innocence and youth,
Social mores, power,
Prejudice, hatred, violence,
The unchanging nature of men.
Adios, y hasta manana, mis compadres en poesia...
Causes Alex Grant Supports
Southern Poverty Law Center